ROUNDTABLE: An interview with The Internet
THE DOWNBEAT - DLS Pineda (The Philippine Star) - November 12, 2016 - 12:00am

The Internet is today’s greatest influencer. Hailed for bringing about social movements, it has transformed not just the way people communicate, but also the way we live. Yet it’s also been called humanity’s bane. In between cat videos and memes, the web has become a space for hate speech, historical revisionism and disinformation. Is its legacy in the balance?

We invited the Internet for a chat to get some answers.

SUPREME: Hello, Internet, our friend! What wisdom do you have to offer us today?

THE INTERNET: Have some audio-visual content. Only $3 for a premium subscription and we pay our artists fairly, too.

S: LOL, thanks. And thanks for giving us this interview.

I: You guys know I don’t always do this… You only call me when there’s a lot of sh*t happening.

S: Oh, sh*t doesn’t even begin to describe this week.

I: Yep, I’ve seen it all come down.

S: We gotta start from the beginning, Internet. You’ve become quite a celebrity over the last few years. When “social media” was just starting to get traction, the Arab Spring happened and that was largely credited to you.

I: You think so? I know CNN.com and BBC.com said it one too many times before. But as Facebook puts it, “What’s on your mind?” Have you seen that YouTube video of an Egyptian boy schooling everyone on oppression and why we need to stand up for our rights? Amazing, wasn’t it?

S: Yeah, he said he learned all those things online. You’re one of the reasons why people mobilized. The Arab Spring kind of cemented your place in society as not just an information hub but also a mover.

I: I wouldn’t take the credit entirely. It was the people. It was you. You guys are the ones who post, who share, who process information, who actually write these things — I can’t write web content, for the life of me — you’re the ones who, you know, actually do things. Me, I’m just these set of codes, wires and boring hardware. So stop giving me all that credit. LOL. I’m a machine. I literally have no desires, no emotions. Unless you share a Thai ad. That sh*t makes me cry.

S: But you really can’t discount the fact that you’ve enabled things to happen. In machine terms, you lubricate not just relationships, but these movements, too.

I: Well, it’s been my pledge from the start — to foster connections among you guys. And do it for free, too. We’re kinda getting there. We’re “democratizing” everything like never before. “Democratizing” comes from the greek word demos, which means “common people.” I got that from etymonline.com, a free etymology dictionary for language snobs and non-snobs alike.

S: Everyone kinda saw what you were all about early on — free speech, free education, free everything. Kids these days overtake their parents. Ask them where they learned something, they say they got it from Google.

I: GMG (Google Mo Gag*), or, as you Filipinos say, a cure for ignorance. LOL. I mean, we haven’t found a cure for cancer, yes, but maybe it’s somewhere there, floating in one of my servers. Oops, clickbait. Look at that headline: “The Simple Cure for Cancer Pharmas Don’t Want You to Know.” LOL. I mean, take coffee for example. We didn’t know its miraculous effects before I came about. Now you know when you should drink it, about cafentrepreneurs, their success stories — coffee and people doing what they love (even if they pay coffee farmers sh*t). That’s what democratization’s all about, isn’t it?

S: I’m not so sure. I feel like it has turned people against each other.

I: But it can’t be worse than Britney in 2007, right? Lol.

S: No, it can be. After years of historical revisionism on Facebook, Marcos is getting buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.

I: But Marcos was the most brilliant President the Philippines ever had. Look at the Cultural Center. Look at the San Juanico Bridge. Look at the North Luzon Expressway. If you use those things, then you must be pro-Marcos.

S: Excuse me?

I: Oh, nothing. It was just something I picked up from the comments section.

S: Does it cite a source?

I: You must be a Yellowtard. It’s what they say about you.

S: It’s tough to argue with people who ignore the facts.

I: Facts? What even are facts? You see, I’m pretty straightforward. I, the Internet, give you what you want and what you dislike. My goal is to make you feel strong emotions — happy or sad, sappy or angry, the best ones on the buffet table. I’m not like you humans who enjoy the long conversations, the lulls, the gray areas. I want you to feel alive in my world. I see one person post about this issue and another post about the same issue, I make them meet at the newsfeed. I create echo chambers; I show you what you want to see, make you know what you want to know. Been visiting your crush’s profile often? Lol. I’ll show you each of his/her — can’t be too careful these days, we hate a-holes online — posts more often. I’ll remind you of his/her birthday. I’ll even remind you one day after if you didn’t greet him/her. I’ll even remind you about the day you became friends online, place a soundtrack, too. LOL.

S: Of course, we’ve noticed that by now.

I: But you still fall for it. Seen zone? I created that so that everyone would be forced to reply. Thumb sign? I created that for socially awkward people to at least use me with every “yes.” Introverted? I’ve got personality quizzes for you to enjoy and share with other people. Extroverted? Have you tried Snapchat? Instagram’s got its own version and it’s a bit better ‘cause your contacts are all there. Point is: I’ve got you trapped. You are mine. I notice that even loneliness and depression have a market on your list — can’t you see that I only want to please you?

Hey, I noticed that you Googled “sunglasses,” “cheap,” “Philippines.” Let me pepper your newsfeed with options. There’s one in Amazon.com for P9,000. Or you can choose to go green with artisanal, handmade bamboo shades for a small community’s livelihood program. I’ll just place this on your news feed so you won’t forget. LOL.

Oh, you’re a Gal Gadot fan? Here’s her new trailer. LOL. Aliens.

S: Uhm, thanks. So, how do you explain these recent events? The end of the world, people say.

I: FB says, “What’s on your mind?”

S: No, we’re the one interviewing you.

I: You see, I don’t make me. You do. Are you talking about Trump? You didn’t see Trump coming because you didn’t want to see it coming. Your circles of friends didn’t want to see it coming. So I showed you “moments” — if you can call it that in the absence of space-time online — when people poked fun at him, comedians hated on him and his hair. But were you in North Carolina? Michael Jordan’s from there; do they really hate blacks?

S: I’m not too sure. I’ve never been there.

I: See, it’s when opinions like yours surface that the virtual world gets that semblance of intelligence, of wholeness. But actually, it’s all you. I am all you.

S: Where do you think this will lead?

I: Where do you think this will lead? Can you really let me go? Check out this new article from one of those liberal webzines — maybe I got this from Slate or The Onion — “Blame the Internet for Everything but It’s Your Activism that Killed Mankind.” Uh-huh, if I had an account, I’d post this online and caption it with “THIS.” You might learn a thing or two. Also, there’s this one weird trick to make your penis grow five more inches! Click here! LOL.

* * *

Tweet the author @sarhentosilly.

 

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